Tag Archives: film

Why Mad Max could only have been made in Australia

 

NB: This was originally written as a pitch
for a comedy site and abandoned.

I recently had the chance to see the
recording of the FAQ show for Ozflix with
Bruce Spence. We could only ask one question so mine was 300 words long.
I ended up having to cut it so I asked if the people making the movie
knew that if it was something that could happen in the near future and
not just a movie. He used the word prescient in his answer and said that
George Miller was “a bit of genius”. The first movies were about the
fuel crisis of the 1970s. Fury Road was about water.


So this happened

and then this

Despite there being many Australians
involved in the Hollywood film industry, the country does not have many
iconic film characters apart from Skippy, Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max
that are world famous. Wolverine does not count unfortunately.

The original Mad Max film was based
on Dr George Miller’s experience from dealing with a parade of carnage
through his emergency room in a time when cars were much more powerful
than today and more poorly regulated and more importantly, when drink
driving laws were lax.

In the city where the original film
was made there were vast suburbs stretching out in all directions with
lots of well made, straight, flat roads that helped the production. It
also led to many imitators both in Australia and overseas but Mad Max is
still the most iconic.

When the film was made in the late
1970s the gas crisis was a recent memory so the plot about the world
running out of fuel for cars seemed like a real possibility. There are
also a lot of other things that contributed to the movie being what it
is that will become apparent as we go on.

Despite what some fans are saying
about the new movie, it is an Australian production as a crew of 800
people went over from Australia to South Africa and Nambia to shoot the
film and many of the extras were Australian actors.

What I want to talk about in this
article is how the original film could not have been made in any other
country than Australia (an alternate reality of Mad Max being made in
Hollywood could be dealt with in another article.)

1. The political environment

Australia does not have the law that
its Prime Minister can only have two terms so at the start of the 1970s
after two decades of the one political party being in power, people were
ready for a change https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jykIqQxEOw

Gough Whitlam tried to institute
real change, but that went about as well as could be expected, he is
famous for being the only Prime Minister to be fired by the Governor
General

While he was in the Whitlam
government did pass a lot of reforms that led to a lot more creative
things going on including kicking into gear the local film industry due
to free university degrees and a lot more people going into creative
industries as a result.

http://www.whitlam.org/gough_whitlam/achievements/environmentcultureheritage

The Australian Film Commission was
created on July 7, 1975 and began making substantial grants to feature
film, documentary, television and short film projects.182
It significantly extended on the support for the Australian film
industry that began with the Gorton Government. This support contributed
to the renaissance of Australian cinema that took place in the 1970s and
1980s, reviving an industry that had stagnated for decades. This support
allowed the expression of a new confident cultural identity through
film. Iconic and critically acclaimed films such as Picnic at
Hanging Rock
, Gallipoli and The Last Wave
were produced with funding from the new Australian Film Commission.

2. The Australian film industry in the 70s

At the start of the decade the
Australian film industry had “had a bit of a lie down” for about 20
years and even some of the more famous Australian films such as

They’re a Weird Mob

Wake in Fright


and

Walkabout

were not even directed by
Australians as while there were still people working in TV and film it
was thought no one would see Australian movies if they made them.

The subject is covered in depth in
the documentary “Not Quite Hollywood” about the “boom” time of
Australian cinema from the introduction of the R-rating (NC-17) and the
10BA scheme through to the slump in the 1980s due to over-investment in
shoddy productions.

http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/research/statistics/archtax10batype.aspx

When first introduced in June 1981,
10BA allowed investors to claim a 150 per cent tax concession and to pay
tax on only half of any income earned from the investment. Government
concern about the cost of 10BA over the years meant that concessions
were progressively reduced to 100 per cent. Division 10BA was
closed to new applicants in July 2007 with the introduction of the new
Producer Offset. The concessional status for investment in productions
holding a valid 10BA certificate remained available until 30 June 2009.

3. Actors available

While Mad Max was famously one of
Mel Gibson’s first movies that he only got the role for after turning up
for casting with a black eye after getting into a fight, there were also
many other cast members who had been in many other films in the previous
decade that directly contributed to making the film what it was.

No, I was not named after the movie
“Tim” it was the BOOK

Several of the actors had already
been in movies together, namely the movie Stone which is as much the
spiritual successor to Mad Max as any other movie

According to Stone’s producer Sandy
Harbutt Roger Ward went over to the pub that the Hells Angels who were
playing the extras were drinking at and yelled out “All Hells Angels are
poofters!”. Some of the fights in that movie were pretty real.

Not forgetting one of the most
important people involved in the film, stuntman Grant Page who was in a
lot of Australian movies in the 70s and early 80s http://www.abc.net.au/arts/stories/s3306721.htm

 

4. Director

Director George Miller was a doctor
before making the film and famously had to use his own van in one of the
stunts for Mad Max as they were running out of money.

http://www.madmaxmovies.com/mad-max/cast-and-crew/george-miller/index.html

There were a lot of young directors
at the time due to the film industry having a revival in the 1970s
people like Brian Trenchard-Smith, Peter Weir, Phillip Noyce, Gillian
Armstrong, Fred Schepisi amongst others who started off small and then
went off to work in Hollywood or overseas due to the Australian film
industry not being big enough to sustain them all.

http://dspace.flinders.edu.au/xmlui/bitstream/handle/2328/1565/N_Prescott.pdf;jsessionid=54D6B25FEBAC435D8DDE915D695230D0?sequence=1

During the 1970s , following the
confluence of numerous different factors, t ere was an extraordinary
revival of Australian film. The graduation of the first group of
students from the newly-created Australian Film, Television and Radio
School(AFTRS), was one factor; students like Gillian Armstrong and
Philip Noyce left their studies and began to work in the industry, and
settled alongside filmmakers like Fred Schepisi, Bruce Beresford and
Peter Weir, who had entered the industry in other ways. The other
factors ushering in the revival are also significant: in 1970, Philip
Adams and Barry Jones (working with the blessing of then Australian
Prime Minister Gorton) travelled around the world researching
Government-funded film industries, with the brief to prepare a detailed
report recommending ways in which an Australian Film Industry might be
literally “established”. After much wrangling and two changes of Prime
Minister, the new Australian film industry was brought into being.

One of Peter Weir’s first movies
“The Cars that Ate Paris” also has the porcupine VW Beetle that makes a
welcome return in the trailer for the new Mad Max movie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q424p7lWD-U

5. Car culture of Australia

Even though they were both USA car
brands, Holden vs. Ford rivalry was the source of many playground fights
growing up, sadly there are not going to be any car manufacturers left
in Australia after 2016 when the last of them shuts down as the current
government has decided to pull the plug.

The peak of car manufacturing in
Australia was in the 1970s where a car manufacturer’s race the Bathurst
1000 was held once per year by cars actually in production. If you go to
see the museum at the track you can see all they did was weld roll bars
into a real production car that still had its back seats installed and
souped-up the engine http://www.motoring.com.au/news/2012/sports/bathurst-1000—the-superstar-70s-32315

While not as money-rich as the
Formula One or having a big a following as NASCAR, the V8 touring cars
still do a series of races around Australia and the Formula 1 race in
Melbourne is the only one where they actually have another class of cars
racing on the track before the big race or nobody would come to it

Australian cars in the 1970s were
big an boxy, if you got into the crash the car would be fine, it was you
would be smashed up. There was famously a car that was deemed “too
dangerous” to release after an incautious motoring journalist took it
for a test drive one Sunday morning.

http://www.drive.com.au/motor-feature/why-they-killed-off-the-aussie-supercar-20120622-20sfx.html

With the popularity of cars in
Australia and the number of road accidents, drastic measures had to be
taken and the Traffic Accident Commission started airing graphic road
accident commercials on network television as part of various campaigns
mirroring the violence in the Mad Max movies but showing the real
consequences

https://www.tac.vic.gov.au/road-safety/tac-campaigns/20-year-campaign

A 20 year retrospective of all the TAC campaigns
from the past 20 years.

To commemorate this 20 year anniversary, a five minute
retrospective of TAC campaigns from the past 20 years has been
compiled. This montage features iconic scenes and images from
commercials that have helped change the way we drive, all edited to
REM’s moving song ‘Everybody Hurts’.

As an aside I did once borrow a VHS tape from the
Australian Centre for the Moving Image called “The Road Worrier” that
was totally based on Mad Max but had a golden driving instructor robot
and advised students to “DON’T BE A NERD! TAKE YOUR TIME”

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.religion.kibology/UkLvCQWKe8o

Title The Road worrier (304757)
Physical Colour; Sound; 19 min
Produced 1986
Distributor Film Australia (FA)
Synopsis Examines driving hazards encountered by young
people when
they start to drive: inexperience on roads; traps to avoid when
dealing with car dealers. Also looks at how to acquire good
driving skills. Prod Co
Distributor Film Australia (FA)
Prod Co: Film Australia
Director Karl Zwicky
Subjects Automobile driver education; Automobile
driving; Automobiles
Purchasing; Film Australia

Asking ACMI for a copy of “Rolf Harris Water Safety”
is left as an exercise for the reader https://twitter.com/ACMI

6. Geography

Despite being a flat, straight and
six lane freeway, the Melbourne to Geelong road is still dangerous and
claims several lives per year

http://www.theage.com.au/data-point/geelong-roads-deadliest-in-state-20121221-2brv3.html

The Weribee Plain is part of the
Western Volcanic Plains and starts at the You Yangs, that are actually
the remnants of volcanoes that have worn down so much only the lava
plugs in the middle remain.

http://www.nre.vic.gov.au/plntanml/biodiversity/directions/volcanic.htm

This meant a very flat road with
good looking locations such as the bridge where they took the railings
off to do the stunt where the motorcyclists went into the river. Also on
the same bridge one of the stuntmen actually got hit in the head by the
motorcycle’s wheel.

You can actually go see where they
filmed parts of the first movie fairly easily if you are living or
traveling to Melboure. Due to hoons messing up the place in their cars
the author has left some locations off the list

http://www.madmaxmovies.com/making/madmax/

“Note: Some locations I have
discovered are privately owned, and for that reason are not listed.
Additionally, I have noticed evidence at some other locations that
people have been hooning around in their cars. DON’T let this be you.
It’s rather childish, and spoils it for everyone else when I’m forced to
remove locations from the list as a result. Thanks.”

The second and third films were
filmed a lot further out near Broken Hill and do not have the same feel
to them. The outer suburban malaise where all you can do is drive around
and yelling out at people before wrapping it around a power poll at
100mph is a popular thing for younger drivers to do still, the Victorian
government had to change the laws to restrict the number of passengers
probationary drivers could have due to so many accidents.

https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/licences/your-ps/p1-and-p2-probationary-licence-restrictions

Australian band TISM also covered
this topic in their song “Greg! The Stop Sign”

There is also the song “Maltby
Bypass” which I cannot find online that is about the region around
Weribee telling the story of Johnny Cash having is photo taken on the
side of the road and a family car breakdown a decade earlier

MIFF 2015 – Dark Age (1987)

Director: Arch Nicholson
Starring: John Jarrat, Steve Harris, Nikki Coghill, Cathy Pope, Max Phipps, Burnham Burnham, David Gulpilil, Ray Meagher

There was a killer crocodile movie released a few years ago that was similar to this movie, but I have not seen it. This movie has a lot of fans in the cult genre and the print screened at the festival was Quentin Tarantino’s personal copy.

The storyline is not that much different to any other killer animal movie with an initial attack being played down until there is one in broad daylight and all hell breaks loose. It is pretty graphic in this case with a young child being eaten in broad daylight.

If anything the response from the authorities was muted in this movie. If it had happened today the current government would have done everything bar nuking the crocodile to get rid of it, but they only care how much money they can dig out of the ground.

This movie did screen as part of the David Gulpilil retrospective, but he does not get to do that much in it apart from get ignored by people and a couple of action scenes.

Burnham Burnham gets a lot of corny dialog to deliver but still manages to maintain his dignity. I liked him more in the Howling III where at least he gets to be funny and take the piss on the native spiritual thing “no way I’m just gunna die!”
Another thing to appreciate in this movie is that is a rare chance to see a rare non-Home and Away performance by Ray Meagher, ya flamin’ mongrel!

Yeah, yeah John Jarrat is in it too, but he is a bit of a dork in it. The crocodile it quite well realised and they wisely keep it off screen for most of the running time except at the end.

It does say the film was shot on location in Cairns and Alice Springs, but you can see at least one pick up shot with the word “MARL-“ as in Marlo clearly visible on a building.

While I wouldn’t rush out and see this movie, it is $5 on the Umbrella entertainment website so if you are already buying a bunch of movies it would be easy enough to pick up.

MIFF 2015: Animation Shorts Program

Yùl and the Snake
Director: Gabriel Harel

Yùl and his brother meet the local shithead to divide up the spoils after a bout of petty thievery. After some mistreatment, Yùl learns how to stick up for himself and a snake is involved.

I liked this even though it seemed a bit rough and ready. If the story and characters work well you don’t need much to help the characters come to life.

The use of the snake metaphor is a bit strange but it suits what the story was about.


Waves ’98
Director: Ely Dagher

A young man is bored in Lebanon one day when he sees a flash on the horizon. Going out on his scooter he finds a giant golden elephant and enters it to find himself in another world.

This was an interesting style of animation in that it was “composited” with traditional animation, photography and video. I know the Congress movie was disqualified from the animation category of the Oscars for including live action, but this should count surely.

The imagery in the fantasy land was suitably weird and clearly a lot of work has gone into the film.
I am not so sure of the statement the film was trying to make but it was good to go along for the ride.


Bush Mechanics
Director: Jason Japljarri Woods, Jonathan Daw

Based on the TV special and TV series this Claymation style animation short tells the story of a group of friends going back to country in their beat up old car only to have a mischievous spirit cause them grief, to which they responded with their bush mechanic techniques.

Made out in a community near Alice Springs and lovingly produced by hand this film has a lot of character and humour and you hardly even notice that it is not in English. I particularly enjoyed the part with the sign language when they were trying to find out where to find the kangaroo from the old man.

Hopefully this short will get a wider run on NITV and the ABC. I know that it was funded via Pozible so the supporters would have got their copies and it will do the festival run.


A Portrait
Director: Aristotelis Maragos

In a style that reminded me of the classic “La Linea” series, but with even more detail a single line tells the story of the film maker’s grandfather.

I know from my own drawing that when you have less lines to work with, you have to be more confident with what you are putting down.

The story ends up being surprisingly deep for the little that is shown on screen, as I said you would not expect so small a line to tell so much of a story.


Migration
Director: Fluorescent Hill

A strange creature is looking for its way home and is joined by other creatures, it eventually finds where they all are jumping off a cliff, but decides to just sit and enjoy the view.

A very strange animation that combines 8mm live action with computer animated figures, but it is blended so well it is hard to tell where one finishes and the other begins.

I am usually a bit down on computer animation, but when it is used like this it works quite well. There are still people doing interesting things with it outside of larger productions.


veil
Director: Yorkiko Mizushiri

A very strange animation with simple line drawings and good forms does not really have a story to tell but it does have repeating imagery and a good soundtrack. From the trailer it seems there are harmonics on the soundtrack you need headphones to hear properly.

It was borderline experimental but this short just manages to stay within getting too annoying due to the interesting setting and things on screen.


Two Films About Loneliness
Director: William Bishop

A man tries to record a dating profile while next door a giant German hamster records a cooking show.

A very odd stop motion animation with unique character designs and I would like to see more films from this director.

I would watch the cooking show that the German hamster was producing.

It reminded me of some of the strange animations they used to show on the ABC back in the day between programs.


My Home
Director: Phuong Mai Nguyen

A young boy does not like his mother’s new partner, who turns out to be a giant bird and runs away. The bird rescues him but he is afraid his mother will turn into a bird.

I enjoyed the style of this animation as it says it was computer animated, but it looks more like it was painted.

Even with one of the main characters being a bird it still manages to tell a good story. The bird might not really be a bird, it is just the feeling some kids get when their parent gets a new partner.

I thought it was a funny and sweet film and would enjoy seeing more from this director.


teeth
Director: Daniel Gray, Tom Brown

In this very grimy and icky feeling short, Richard E Grant narrates a tale of dental loss and obsession.

It was surprising how the soundtrack combined with such simple imagery to make you feel so uneasy about where the story was heading.

There was the usual “twist” ending but the whole short was pretty twisted so it did not seem that big of a thing this time.


We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
Director: Konstantin Bronszit

https://vimeo.com/114381015

Two best friends in Cosmonaut training are picked for the next launch. I won’t give away what happens but this is a very funny and sad short at the same time and does feel very Russian in its outlook.

I did enjoy the animation style and the setting of it being in a space training centre. Given the amount of accidents with the old USSR space program it is quite mild what actually happens.

There is quite a pedigree with old Eastern European communist animation, this short shows that there are still a lot of talented people in the field today from those countries.


Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale and the Rose
Director: Brendan Fletcher, Del Kathryn Barton
With the voices of Mia Wasikowska, Geoffrey Rush, David Wenham
Music by Sarah Blasko

Based on a story by Oscar Wilde this very artistic story has every single frame that could be its own artwork being that it was painted by Del Kathryn Barton and based on a series of artworks she made based on the original story.

Quite a lot of famous Australian actors provided the voice talent and the soundtrack fits quite well with the story.

The character designs manage to be both beautiful and disturbing at the same time, being there seems to be something “off” with them in line with the artist’s style of painting.

A very unique animated short that no doubt will do well on the festival circuit.

MIFF 2015 – Shortlist

First run through the program. Will probably get a E-mini pass plus extras and one of the forums.

Dope
The Forbidden Room
Tehran Taxi
Under Electric Clouds
Sherpa
Tyke Elephant Outlaw
Stories I want to tell you in person
Neon
Sucker
Snow Monkey
Pawno
Only the Dead
The Last Wave
Storm Boy
Gulpilil Shorts
Another Country
Charlie’s Country
Dark Age
Wonderful World End
Spmg of the Sea
Robot Overlords
The Assassin
Chasuke’s Journey
Ryuzo and his seven henchmen
Ruined heart: Another love story between a criminal and a whore
Racing extinction
Iris
Fresh Dressed
Finders Keepers
The Look of Silence
Exotica, Erotica, Etc
Dreamcatcher
Tea Time
Storm Children – Book One
The Russian Woodpecker
Thank you for playing
In the basement
Steve Jobs: The Man in the machine
Graceful girls
Speed sisters
Palio
Red Army
Being Evel
Cartel Land
Deep Web
Daises
Yellow Submarine
Head
Feherlofia
Battles without honour and humanity
Raiders!
Grey gardens
808
Mr Dynamite: The rise of James Brown
Colin Ray – Waiting for my real life
Human Highway: Director’s Cut
Deathgasm
He Never Died
Turbo Kid
Drunked Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of National Lampoon
Yakuza Apocolypse: The Great War of the Underworld
City of Gold
Foodies
Animation Shorts Program
WTF Shorts

Forums:
David Gulpilil in Conversation with Margaret Pomeranz

Director’s Chair:
In Conversation with Joshua Oppenheimer

In Focus:
Clickbait Criticism!
Uneasy Laughs
Guilty Pleasures
Foodie-ism: Are we full up?

Oldies.com DVDs #1

I finally got around to watching Legend of the Superheroes after buying a few of the Warner Archive Collection/MGM Classics/Sony Screen Classics DVDs last year. I know some of them are now available only, but I cannot watch them there due to region restrictions. Also I noticed a lot of these DVDs have “not for sale or rent outside of the US” on them. Has not stopped some local DVD stores selling them at double the price though.

Urgh! A Music War

Has a large line up of bands playing from a concert recorded in 1980. Fans of the bands should know that while the popular bands of the time do play, they don’t actually play their most popular song. I did like the large amount of bands involved and some of the more interesting bands like the Surf Punks

They reminded me of Melbourne band the Twits are fair bit for some reason.

Legends of the Superheroes

I had heard a lot about this from various sites pouring scorn on it in the past few years. As a fan of the Superfriends cartoon series I was interested in it and not just to make fun of it. I turned out to be a lot better than I thought from the short clips I have seen. Having Adam West, Burt Ward, Frank Gorshin, Ruth Buzzi and a lot of other talented actors and comedians in it helped a lot. Even though the show was never picked up from the two pilot episodes, it does look like the people involved were having a good time and laughing for real at some of the jokes during the filming.

I found this great site with someone who went to the trouble of tracking down the original actors from the show and interviewing them
http://noblemania.blogspot.com.au/search/label/Legends%20of%20the%20Superheroes

The Bed Sitting Room

Another one I had been meaning to see for quite a while after reading about it in Spike Milligan’s autobiography. It was originally a play and Spike also moved his parents out to Australia as he was so afraid of nuclear war. I was quite pleased with this one due to the cast and that it was very weird with no explanation as to why the strange things were happening other than “radiation”, it is also a lot more up in tone than most post-nuclear war movies.

Sid and Marty Krofft’s Greatest Saturday Morning Hits

After posting the following trailer to my friend’s wall, I got the message back “You are the ruler Tim! This is boss!”

I had to buy the show then, I did try and find the complete set via a VHS to DVD rip, but the seller turned out to be dodgy – what a surprise! so I settled for this one. There were other boxed sets, but they were either out of print or too expensive.

The rest of the episodes from each of the shows were interesting and even the widely derided “Bigfoot & Wild Boy” was not as bad as people make out. I would recommend this DVD for people who want a taster of some of the shows before they go looking for them online. I learned the lesson with the Banana Splits DVD boxed set as even the creators of the show got sick of it after a while, they had a buggy race that went for six episodes, should have gotten compilation DVD of the Danger Island episodes.

Americathon

I had not heard of this one before I saw it on the Warner Archive Collection list on the oldies.com website, looked interesting at least. I ended up being a bit disappointed in it as it does have a good cast including George Carlin doing the narration, but they never seem to make enough of it including the jokes that fall a bit flat.

Luckily it still has an Beach Boys song they wrote for the movie.

And not forgetting Meatloaf vs. a car

Legend of Billie Jean

Q&A from the Cinefamily screening

I forgot where I first heard of this, but was intrigued by the trailer and the news it was having a rare public screening as it hadn’t really been seen since it was released in the 1980s. Also there were rights issues regarding the soundtrack that needed to be resolved.

This is the best DVD of the bunch as far as I am concerned. Sure it may be a bit over the top at times, it is very earnest and the soundtrack suits it perfectly. Also for fans of the Simpsons it is the chance to see an early role outside of Herman’s Head for the voice of Lisa Simpson, Yeardley Smith.

Pat Benetar – Invincible/Legend of Billie Jean music video

Product links:
Urgh! A Music War
http://www.oldies.com/product-view/6868FD/c_TE02.html

Legends of the Superheroes
http://www.oldies.com/product-view/9343FD/c_TE02.html

The Bed Sitting Room
http://www.oldies.com/product-view/1954ED/c_TE02.html

Sid and Marty Krofft’s Greatest Saturday Morning Hits
http://www.oldies.com/product-view/21994O/c_TE02.html

Americathon
http://www.oldies.com/product-view/9374FD/c_TE02.html

Legend of Billie Jean
http://www.oldies.com/product-view/1711ED/c_TE02.html